Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category

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Chrome OS as Laptop Fast Boot Option

02/12/2009

We have a number of E-series Dell laptops in my organisation and whilst we don’t configure it many have Dell’s Latitude On installed.  This is a small Linux install that gives quick read only access to things such as recent mail, calendar and even a web browser.

With the advent of Chrome OS and after reading a recent article on LifeHacker by Gina Trapani it struck me that as well as dedicated Chrome OS devices there may be an option to boot from an onboard chip (like Latitude On) to effectively allow an alternative quick boot for a machine.  Now whilst the supported hardware list is not currently extensive hardware manufacturers can use the fact that Chrome OS is open source to create appropriate drivers.

Whereas Latitude On allows access to stored mailboxes, using Chrome OS would obviously relate to accessing content located on Google servers with regards to things such as mail or documents.  So would this be a step forwards or backwards?

Well for me I think it will be a progression.  There’s maybe another year or so of development to get to this point and by then the cloud, Google and Chrome OS will no doubt have progressed.  I think the maturity of the Chrome browser a year down the line and the fact that it will be ‘geared’ to working with Google services could be a big selling point for the Chrome OS in this sort of deployment.  I expect it will be faster and perhaps prettier (in GUI terms) to other quick alternative boot options.

I wonder how quick Chrome OS would be on a dedicated chip on a fast laptop as opposed to a netbook?  Hopefully I’ll get the chance to find out.

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iPhone/iPod Delete and Backspace

28/11/2009

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iPods, iPhones, Safari and Evernote

29/09/2009

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Caps Lock on iPod Touch and iPhone

29/09/2009

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Controlling Spotify

29/07/2009

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Tweet from a dumb phone

22/07/2009
Buzby - British Telecom's old mascot

Buzby - British Telecom's old mascot ... the original Tweeter

There are lots of Twitter clients out there for smart phones, but you can also tweet from a ‘dumb’ phone.  The trick is to use a service like TwitSay or TwitterFone.  Once you register, these services give you a local telephone number to call.  You can then record a short voice message.

  • If you use TwitSay, then your message will be held as an audio recording on TwitSay and a URL will be posted to your Twitter feed.
  • If you use TwitterFone then a transcription takes place and the resulting text is posted to your Twitter feed.  TwitterFone also allows you a few additional options such as being able to listen to your Twitter feed being read to you and then being able to post responses and direct messages through the same audio transcription system.

It’s an interesting alternative interface to Twitter and one with several benefits in terms of accessibility – both in a disability sense and an availability of technology sense.  Even with a smart phone you could take advantage of these services if for example you have voice dialling enabled … not that I’d recommend tweeting whilst driving.

Interestingly both services refer only to mobile phones.  I do wonder if a land line would work too.  I can’t see any reason that it wouldn’t unless you have caller ID sending off or the services are actively blocking them.  You would however need to be able to receive a text message to the land line for activation validation purposes.  however many operators offer an SMS to audio service so even that shouldn’t really be an issue for most people.

Now I want to know when I can have a transcription take place on my phone without using a service so that I can just dictate a tweet (or an SMS) and not even have to pay for the local call – just make use of the data plan instead.

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Presentations – Keeping your screen active

20/07/2009

Power saving options on computers are something that I personally think are great.  They not only help reduce carbon footprints, but they also help draw out even more life from your laptop battery.   One of the main ways in which this is done (others being things such as disabling hardware) is by having an inactivity option that turns off the screen and the hard disk after a period of inactivity.  Unfortunately there are times when this isn’t something you want.  The primary example of this is when you are giving a presentation.

The typical way of overriding this in Windows is to change what power saving scheme is being used through the Windows control panel or a third party application that links directly to these options.  However sometimes end users don’t have access to this.

This typically occurs where a group policy has been applied to stop users ‘tinkering’ with the power saving schemes.  Users with access can amend or delete power saving schemes which can lead to complications with machines and so it is not that uncommon to restrict access.

Whilst applications such as Microsoft PowerPoint can lead the OS into knowing that it should keep things like monitors on if a presentation is in a browser or some other “power unaware” application, then power saving actions can kick in.

I decided to apply a brute force solution to this by creating an AutoHotKey script to send a key press to the OS at regular intervals.  By default it sends a Shift key press as this is least likely to have any impact on any application, but this can be modified along with the frequency with which it is sent by the use of a settings file.  The settings file also includes an option to choose whether to start sending key presses as soon as it is run.

The code for the script is given at the end of this post, but I have also compiled this into a stand alone executable that you could even pop onto your flash drive if you’re going to be presenting on someone else’s PC.  Similarly you could add it into your start-up group (with it set not to auto start sending key presses) so it is always there when you need it.

The script places a monitor icon in the system tray.  When it is black power saving actions through inactivity will take place.  When it is blue, key presses will be sent.  Right clicking on the icon will display a menu with an override option.  Selecting this option will place a check mark next to it which will set the icon blue and initiate the override mode.  Selecting the option again will uncheck it, set the icon black and turn off the override mode.

Only one setting is available on the settings menu.  This is another check item and determines whether override mode should be enabled immediately when the utility is first started.

The utility looks for a settings file called ActiveDisplay.ini in the folder from which the utility is being run.  If it does not exist, the utility will use its default settings which match the settings given in this example file:

[Settings]
;Set to 1 to enable override mode at start-up and 0 to disable.
EnableOnRun=0
;Specify what characters should be sent.  Use {} for special key strokes
KeyStroke={SHIFT}
;Number of milliseconds between sending the key strokes (120,000 milliseconds : 2 minutes)
Period=120000

If you want to tweak the script to meet your own needs you can get the details below and use your own icons.  If you want to get the compiled version you can download it for free.

#Persistent
#SingleInstance

;Read in settings
iniread, EnableAtStartup, %A_ScriptDir%\ActiveDisplay.ini, Settings, EnableOnRun, 0
iniread, KeyStroke, %A_ScriptDir%\ActiveDisplay.ini, Settings, KeyStroke, {Shift}
iniread, Period, %A_ScriptDir%\ActiveDisplay.ini, Settings, Period, 120000

;Create the tray menu
menu, tray, add, Override, Override
Menu, SettingsMenu, add, EnabledAtStartup
Menu, tray, add, Settings, :SettingsMenu
menu, tray, add, About
menu, tray, add, Exit
menu, tray, nostandard

;Initialise
;Time to do something that seems crazy - we'll flip these and then call the menu selection routines where it will get flipped back
EnableTimer := EnableAtStartup
EnableAtStartup := Not(EnableAtStartup)
GoSub, EnabledAtStartup
EnableTimer := Not(EnableTimer)
GoSub, Override
return

;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

SendKeyStroke:
Send %KeyStroke%
return

Override:
EnableTimer := Not(EnableTimer)
If EnableTimer
{
 menu, tray, Check, Override
 menu, tray, icon, C:\Icons\Monitor On.ico
 menu, tray, tip, Default Power Saving Mode Overridden
 SetTimer, SendKeyStroke, %Period%
}
Else
{
 menu, tray, UnCheck, Override
 menu, tray, icon, C:\Icons\Monitor Off.ico
 menu, tray, tip, Default Power Saving Mode
 SetTimer, SendKeyStroke, Off
}
return

EnabledAtStartup:
EnableAtStartup := Not(EnableAtStartup)
If EnableAtStartup
{
 menu, SettingsMenu, Check, EnabledAtStartup
 iniwrite, 1, %A_ScriptDir%\ActiveDisplay.ini, Settings, EnableOnRun
}
Else
{
 menu, SettingsMenu, UnCheck, EnabledAtStartup
 iniwrite, 0, %A_ScriptDir%\ActiveDisplay.ini, Settings, EnableOnRun
}
return

About:
MsgBox, 0, About Active Display, Version 1.0`nCopyright 2009 RebootIT`n`nhttps://flagit.wordpress.com
return

Exit:
ExitApp